Tesla Truck

A Tesla semi-truck in operation. CARB approved a first-of-its-kind regulation to accelerate adoption of zero-emission medium- and heavy-duty trucks and get diesel-fueled trucks off the roadways.

The California Air Resources Board at its June 25 meeting adopted a new policy designed to support and speed up the production of zero-emission medium- and heavy-duty trucks.

Roughly 150 individuals addressed the board members prior to the unanimous passage of the Advanced Clean Trucks Regulation, which is the first of a trio of CARB policies designed to help the state meet its climate and air quality targets. The other two address low-nitrogen-oxide vehicles and establish zero-emission fleet rules.

The policy, according to CARB, is crafted to send a clear market signal to accelerate adoption of zero-emission medium- and heavy-duty trucks and get diesel-fueled trucks off the roads. It applies to Class 2b or heavy-duty pickups through Class 8 vehicles—freight-hauling tractor-trailers.

To accomplish its goals, the regulation requires truck manufacturers to sell a specific number of zero-emission vehicles based on a percentage of their annual sales. It also requires businesses "and other entities" to file a one-time report that will be used in the development of fleet rules.

The initial hearing was held Dec. 12, 2019. At that time, CARB received more than 100 public comments on the proposed regulation, which included industry comments. Among them was a proposal by the Truck and Engine Manufacturers Association (EMA) to require 100-percent sales and purchases of ZEVs by market segment: for instance, refuse trucks would be 100 percent ZEV by 2026. CARB asked its staff to evaluate the proposal and found five key issues with it. For one, EMA acknowledged it would not be feasible to reach 100-percent deployment in any sector and it would not substantially increase the number of vehicles deployed. Nonetheless, staff said it would introduce the so-called beachheads concept into the fleet rules.

The early compliance requirements were also pushed up from 2025 to 2024. Staff said early compliance is anticipated and that it doesn't make sense to delay, with major fleets already committed to purchasing ZEVs starting with the 2024 model year. Staff also said early compliance is "feasible despite the effects of COVID-19."

In the 2024 model year, for example, manufacturers' sales of Class 2b and 3 ZEVs need to represent at least 5 percent of total sales.

The new requirements also increase the number of Class 7 and 8 tractors to be sold beginning in 2026 "to align with the ports' goals." San Pedro Bay, for example, has a goal of having some 17,000 zero-emission drayage vehicles in service by 2035. The requirements were adjusted to double the originally proposed 2030 target—moving it from 15 percent to 30 percent. Other sales requirements in the 2026 to 2030 time frame were also increased.

The requirements continue increasing after 2030 in order to "help establish a pathway" to the state's carbon-neutrality goals.

CARB staff estimates that the additional greenhouse gas benefits from these changes will amount to a reduction of roughly 18 million metric tons of GHG. There will also be some $6 billion in economic savings, plus an additional $9 billion in health savings from avoided health costs, such as fewer emergency room visits and fewer hospitalizations.

Since December, CARB staff has also streamlined and simplified large-entity reporting such that information essential for crafting the fleet rules will be gathered. The fleet size being surveyed was reduced from 100 vehicles to 50 vehicles.

Comments generally fell into three broad categories: representatives of other states' agencies supporting adoption of the regulations; those supporting the regulations around myriad labor, social and environmental-justice concerns; and those wanting CARB to add language about near-zero-emission vehicles to the regulations, saying near-term solutions—including incentives—were needed to prevent truck owners from replacing old diesel trucks with new diesel trucks.

Tiffany Roberts, representing the Western States Petroleum Association, argued that all candidate fuel technologies—including biodiesel, hybrid fuels and renewable natural gas—need to be on the table, or else it would create "a fragmented and siloed process" rather than resulting in the selection of the best path forward.

Following several comments on that point, CARB Chair Mary Nichols attempted to redirect discussion of the low-NOx issue to a future proceeding. "ACT is only one of several rules which we are working on," she said, adding that including any new definitions of "near-zero" would dilute the number of ZEVs on California roads. "That is not what this rule is about . . . There other places and other times where we will be talking about [that issue]." 

Industry representatives, including Dawn Fenton, spokesperson for Volvo Group North America, are confident in their ability to supply the ZEV market, but said issues such as refueling infrastructure need to be resolved and state goals need to be adjusted to be realistic rather than aspirational. Some said incentives need to be in place to support the transition.

Comments on labor, social and environmental-justice concerns centered on eliminating "diesel death zones," with residents of Oxnard, Boyle Heights, Ontario and other communities with heavy freight truck traffic imploring CARB to adopt the regulation as written.

"Californians are better off with this policy in place," Lauren Navarro, representing Environmental Defense Fund, said.

Ray Pingle of Sierra Club California praised the "thoughtful and effective new plan . . . a visionary and groundbreaking initiative."

Others, including union representatives, are pleased about the good jobs and healthy communities they said the regulation would create.

Will Barrett, representing the American Lung Association, called the regulation "a historic first step toward a healthy California."

Prior to the vote, board members expressed concern regarding the jam in which independent truckers are placed by the companies with which they contract. Several said they want to be certain the burden of compliance is placed on operators, not independent contractors. 

"This is clearly bold, historical and meaningful," CARB member John Gioia said. "I wish we could go further."